Monday, August 19, 2013

Patrick Turner's Westport: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Patrick Turner's Westport Development has stayed under my radar as of late. One reason or perhaps the only reason is because the Westpoert waterfront remains quiet. There are luxury no Apartment high rises, no Office Buildings, no Retail, no 500 room Hotel, no nothing. By now in a perfect world this wouldn't have been the case especially since the first buildings were slated to open in 2008 but a series of unfortunate events has put the future of this $1.4 Billion waterfront in limbo.
All of these unfortunate events can be traced back to one thing; the Economic Downturn of 2008. It's as if Patrick Turner's Westport was held together by a single pin and that single pin was moved the whole project collapsed. But don't worry, just because there have been some unfortunate events, the project can still be dusted off and put back on track. I certainly hope this is the case.
 In 2004 Patrick Turner began assembling land on the Westport waterfront that has long since been abandoned industrial land. His hopes were and still are to turn it and the Westport Neighborhood into Baltimore's next hot spot in fact the company he formed to focus on Westport is appropriately named "Inner Harbor West" an obvious play on the now thriving Inner Harbor East. By the time Patrick Turner owned the entire Waterfront he had spent $13 million.
In 2007 Patrick Turner presented his Master Plan for the Westport Waterfront to the City and the Westport Community. The plan had won the hearts and minds of both the City and the Westport Community. Given the very large price tag of infrastructure for such a massive undertaking, the City agreed to help pay the $160 million it would cost. They were to do it by issuing bonds through a deal known as "Tax Increment Financing" which the bond holders would pay back the City over time through the property taxes generated by the development. The only problem was, the builders who would build the properties that generate said property tax had pulled out leaving the infrastructure unpaid for essentially.
Turner had also taken out a $32 million loan as well as a $15 million loan to get the ball rolling on the first phase of development which was to include a 200 unit Apartment Building, 90,000 Square Feet of Office Space, 72 Town Homes, and another 220 units Apartment Building. With news of the infrastructure deal crumbling, the Builders and Lessees of these projects pulled out. They more than likely would have done so due to the crumbling economy. With no financing for infrastructure and no Builders willing to overlook and stay signed to the project anyway, the whole waterfront and Patrick Turner himself were in deep trouble.
The combined $47 million in loans Turner had taken out were to be paid back on the contingency that he would get builders and lessees for the land. Due to the series of unfortunate events, Turner now had no financial backers aka builders/lessees. Patrick Turner still had to pay back those though. Since Patrick Turner, or any of the companies he was associated with, didn't have $47 million in cash (just land that at the current time is useless) bankruptcy and foreclosure became all too common words around the water cooler at Patrick Tuner's Office as well as the media. 
These days, despite the looming threats of the Banks who lent him this money, Patrick Turner is still very optimistic that this thing can get turned around and his plan to redevelop the Westport waterfront will come to fruition. He now claims he has financial backers who will help him buy back his $32 million loan from the Bank. Whether these financial backers are actual builders looking to develop the land or are just supplying Turner the cash he needs to stay afloat is unknown. What is also unknown is whether the City will re-agree to issue the $160 million in bonds to kick start the infrastructure needs. I know they're fronting some serious cash to Harbor Point at the moment so I'm not sure if they're willing to do so for Westport. 
Given how good the idea is and how the Westport is a gold mine of untapped waterfront City living and the plethora of existing housing in the Neighborhood of Westport I'm confident that the plan will come to fruition, whether Patrick Turner can keep control of the goings on is yet to be seen. Hopefully the series of unfortunate events will be overshadowed by an even larger series of fortunate events.            

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